This Saturday, April 21st the turntables of time will be catching a rough spot on the groove and skipping us back to the age before Napster. How is this possible you ask? Easy, it’s called Record Store Day and it’s coming to Baltimore via Tony Pence and Celebrated Summer Records. Record Store Day, Tony explains, is a day where “a bunch of labels and artists make pretty limited and rare releases that you can only buy at Physical record stores on that day. So no online sales or Box stores get this stuff, just the little guys.” Yup you heard it! No Piratebay, no Amazon, no bitjunkie, no itunes, just real physical objects sold exclusively in real physical locations. “We participate by having a sampling of these releases plus a few special ones we do just for Celebrated Summer. This year our Store Specific releases are a Live LP by Infamous Band Integrity and a Special Silk-screened cover for a local Hardcore band we love called Peace. We will have Record Store Day releases by Arcade Fire, Misfits, Beach House, Metallica, RUN DMC, MC5 and many more. For people that get here early:Free Donuts!” So there you have it, free donuts, and I bet the music by those bands are pretty good too.
So bottom line, it is a really cool concept. Since there is no guarantee of monetary value in the music alone anymore, many labels, musicians and record stores have begun focusing on quality, exclusivity, and tangibility of what they sell as opposed to how cheap and fast they can buy it and turn a profit. Frankly, for me at least, it’s the way music is supposed to be. Not a product to be exploited, but a unique and creative way of life that is meant to be planted in all of us, nurtured, and to taught to flourish. But just like anything that has to grow, it needs a conducive environment.
Enter Tony Pence and Celebrated Summer records.
For anyone who is not privy to the absolute coolest parts of Baltimore, CSR is is a record store located in the back of Atomic Books on Falls Road in Hampden. That’s right, this record store is so cool that it’s still hanging out in the back of the proverbial classroom. However, CSR hasn’t always called Atomic Books home. Prior to living on Falls road, Tony Pence as well as an elite team of loyal friends and music lovers ran CSR out of the back of yet another shop, one Legends Comics, which used to be located in Towson. However, when the owner decided to move further north into the county Tony couldn’t see his business going with it. It makes sense for anyone who used to patron the old shop in Legends or any other punk/hip local in the area. The natural progression for most punk rockers is that you first start going to church shows and hanging out in the streets of Towson or any other area along the north end of the Beltway then when the day comes where you graduate from your little punk rock academy you migrate south into the city. For Tony most of his customers had already migrated and were already taking the bus or riding their bike miles north just to make it to his store. So when the idea to move into Atomic books went from a hypothetical to a possibility it became a no brainer.
Running CSR is most certainly a labor of love, but it’s also a great opportunity to do things you otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. For instance, get a mascot. “Ever since I was little I have always been fascinated by Advertising Mascots and Cartoons, collecting toys has always been a fun pastime, so when I opened Celebrated Summer the first thing I did was have my friend Dave Manganaro design our Space Cat Mascot, from then on I would put it on Shirts, Cereal Boxes and Fan club cards”
“Eventually customers would start drawing and painting it for me! Over the 6 years I have amassed a large collection of Art and Projects related to the store.” CSR has amassed so much art in fact that there was recently an art show held for it with both commissioned works and fan art thus further reinforcing the connection between record stores and their customers.
Which brings us to our next photo. At Celebrated summer there is literally a chart posted so that you can figure out the best time to come by. Although, unlike corporate businesses that do this so you can buy your shit and get out, this chart is also meant to help the customers who LIKE to spend serious time there. Be it filing through countless records, talking about music, hoping you are going to finally find the last piece of your garage band, or literally just hanging out, Tony Pence is a professional at all of these things. “I am absolutely qualified to do nothing else but sit in a room and play and talk about records. I have attempted to do other things but didn’t like it… so this is what I am good for.” he says.
So for all of you who think that music sucks now, either because the music industry has gone to hell, or because you are a hipster and in being so have to hate everything unless it’s obscure (Side note: nothing you are ever into is actually obscure, you just were either unborn or a baby when it was cool and new), Celebrated Summer is the place to go, and this Saturday is the best time to do it. If you are on the fence about it, I recommend the following exercise: Look at the above photo and imagine hearing the pop, scratch, and hiss of that needle hitting the record knowing an amazing song is about to start playing. Then ask “is there any benefit to deny myself of such a beautiful and profound pleasure.”